Sunday, 8 April 2018

Anecdotes of Appetites

After writing my blog post about my love of bread, I realised that I absolutely love writing about food. I've been feeling a funk with my blog over the last few months and that blog post really helped pick me out of it. But I knew that I couldn't carry on writing blog posts about specific food groups like that because, quite frankly, there's nothing I love as much as some damn good bread. I was reading some of Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh and I was revelling in all the little snippets. Descriptions of rich, sweet tomatoes and the curing powers of a good curry. And it really inspired me to not lose that spark of food writing. And so I had the idea for a new series. Where I share 3 stories about food in a blog post. Not necessarily the taste of the food. But the story behind it. Because after all, food does not only nutritionally benefit us. Food is more than atoms on the very basic level. It's about who we eat it with, where we eat it, how it makes us feel. 


$100 Over Thanksgiving Poker

For a few months, here in America, I was dating someone. And his mom invited not only me but my friends as well over for Thanksgiving dinner. Not one to pass up on a cultural exchange opportunity I was happy to be invited and went with two of my friends, Kathryn and Taylor, as all the other interns had other plans. Thanksgiving day was crisp and clear and we decided to walk the 45 minutes to their house in the much wealthier Old Greenwich. Along the way, we stopped and watched some deer that we spotted in the woods and whilst it was cold, it was a beautiful day. 

On arrival, we handed over some wine and chocolates and we settled down with the family to play a game of cards. Now one thing I have to share for this to make sense here is: they are a wealthy family. In a way that doesn't quite make sense to me with my upbringing. So when his dad smacked a $100 bill down on the table and said 'after dinner, we're playing poker winner takes all'. My friends and I were shocked because our parents don't do that sort of thing. 

And his mom loved to cook. And she was good at it. And this Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. A beautiful smoked ham studded with pineapple, smooth mashed potato with a mustard kick, one deep fried turkey (it is the American way after all), stuffing, veggies, homemade cranberry sauce, bread rolls etc. And if that wasn't enough... dessert. Pumpkin pie with a ginger crust. Baked cheesecake. Peanut butter brownies and ice cream. This was the sort of indulgence I'm only really used to at Christmas so it felt somewhat foreign in November and I was LOVING IT.

And then to top it all off Kathryn won the $100 after dinner despite it being her first time playing poker. "Oh my god.", "I just can't believe it." and "That's so much money." Were phrases that were muttered several times over in my kitchen afterwards are we portioned up leftovers. 

Cooking for Kea

I have an unhealthy relationship with food. Over the last year or so, I've really been working on my problems and trying to nourish my body without feelings of guilt. And one of the problems I'm trying to tackle head-on is being a picky eater. I'm certainly not a chicken-nuggets-and-chips-only kind of picky eater. I'll work down a stir-fry or tacos and nothing makes me happier than putting literally any fruit into a cheese toastie and seeing if it works or not. 

But it's a lot of the classic 'British' dishes that intimidate me. And the 'British' is held in apostrophes because I'm about to talk about spaghetti bolognese which is... bolognese but arguably a staple in most British households. Always had a thing against mince. But when Milly shared this bolognese recipe on Twitter I decided that enough was enough and I'd give it a try. 

So I invited my friend Kea to come over and eat dinner with me, neglecting to mention that I had never made bolognese before or even eaten it in my adult life. Or as the American's call it... meat sauce. And it was a hit. I softened onions letting their aroma fill the kitchen. Added the tomatoes and watched their brightness shine and bubble as the sauce cooked. And I even got over the mince phobia. 

So we sat on my couch eating bolognese and watching Buzzfeed Unsolved. A glass of red sangria for her and a mug of Moscato for me that I'd bought because it was called Sweet Bitch.  And as we sat there eating I couldn't help but think about how that bowl of pasta actually meant quite a lot to me. It was about setting challenges for myself and accepting that they are challenges. It was about self-acceptance and treating my body kindly.  

Walking Past Raspberry Bushes

Near my childhood home was a wooded area, cut down the middle by a little river. We only ever referred to the river by the Scots word ‘burn’ and it was followed through the woods by a red scale path. This was where we walked our dog and in the summer the path would be lined with raspberry bushes.

I had gotten into the habit of stopping at one particular bush around the halfway point and selecting the biggest, juiciest raspberry for myself. And whilst I was there I’d pick one for Sam too, throwing it in his direction and laughing as he leapt to catch it mid-jump and swallowed it whole. I sincerely doubt that he ever tasted a single one.

Normally, dog walking is a solitary thing for me. I like having time to clear my head and as Labradors are relatively well-behaved dogs off-leash it’s also the opportunity to catch up on the odd phone call here and there too. It wasn’t until one day when I accompanied my mum on an afternoon dog walk and I engaged in our little raspberry bush routine that my mum went ‘fuck that’s what it is’ and I went ‘what?’. And well, it turns out that even I wasn’t the one walking him, the dog would sit and wait for his raspberry. But no one knew about the raspberries but him and me. And so everyone else would get confused by his reluctance to carry on with the walk. He just wanted the berry.

You see, food is all about tradition and routine, even if you are a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador named Sam. My sweetest, bestest boy.

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